Sunday, November 06, 2005


Although many people may not have heard of him, Robert Tennenbaum is a bit of a Columbia icon. After all, he was there at the beginning as a planner employed by James Rouse. Tennenbaum is still active in issues affecting the community, and played a significant role in the Charrette. But he's got some concerns (two links), particularly about the idea of demolishing the Columbia Association headquarters building, which is also home to Clyde's, the iconic Columbia restaurant. From the first link:

The lakefront is the iconic image of Columbia and as such the entire urban design of the lakefront should be preserved as is. The Exhibit building, Columbia Association headquarters building, American Cities Building and the General Growth Properties Inc. headquarters building were designed to be in scale with each other, the trees and the lake. Frank Gehry, now a world-famous architect, designed two of the buildings to respect the urban design of the ensemble. Jim Rouse followed the design process and approved it.

Amazingly, the proposed demolition completely ignores the fact that Clyde's and Tomato Palace would be sacrificed. Both restaurant/cafes are a vital part of the social fabric of Columbia. Clyde's, celebrating its 30th year, and Tomato Palace are exactly the kind of restaurant/cafe that the charrette plan believes is vital for a vibrant Town Center. But the plan sacrifices them for a "view."

The demolition idea and the sketch depicting the silly church steeple building replacing the CA headquarters building should be trashed.

I love the honesty, though I don't fully agree with his position. I think the building could go, and Clyde's could be preserved by moving either to another location or to whatever is built in place of this old building. That said, I don't think we need less buildings around the lake, and I don't particularly buy into the idea that we need vistas of the lake, aside from those afforded in pedestrian plazas, which we already have. I just think we could demolish the building (and even the American City Building for that matter) in favor of some nicer architecture.

From the second link above, Tennenbaum writes in the Flier:

The charrette process (and the General Growth Properties Inc. process) educated residents about what constitutes a vibrant town center.

However, I have reservations.

Phasing was ignored. If proposed development is scattered, residents will have a long wait for a vibrant Town Center. A phased "smart growth" plan should be developed to assure development of the Warfield Triangle, the Corporate Boulevard and core "infill" sites before development on the Crescent Site. This would create a critical mass of residents and retail activities sooner for today's residents to enjoy.

The county, the Columbia Association and General Growth should develop a coordinated plan to implement pedestrian circulation improvements that can be accomplished soon, such as sidewalks, pathways, crosswalks, signage, lighting, landscaping and traffic signals. This will show progress.

I agree that we need to actually plan how we're going to implement our plan, and we certainly need to make sure that we start seeing the good things--new pedestrian connections, better signs, etc--at the same time we're forced to look at some, er, not-so-good things. And I think it's great that we're talking about all of this now, instead of when the process has moved too far along.

But, more than anything, it's great to still have Tennenbaum around to provide input and put bad ideas in their place.

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